Author: David Henson
The crotchety old bastard ducked when a boy in a SuperSuit streaked above him. As he straightened up, a SuperSuited girl knocked his hat off. The crotchety old bastard shook his fist in the air.
“Let the kids have fun,” a passer-by on the crowded sidewalk said. “Tis the season.”
The crotchety old bastard squashed his hat onto his head and continued on his way.
The nano-mechanical SuperSuits were all the rage this year for young and old. But the crotchety old bastard wouldn’t have one nor give one to his kids if he had any.
The crotchety old bastard didn’t believe in giving anything to anybody. Why should he? Nobody ever gave him anything. He was orphaned on Najeda-7, lied about his age so he could work in the mines as a child, and scrimped enough credits to earn passage on a freighter part-way to earth. He paid the rest of his way hand-scraping hydrogen residue from the ship’s nacelles. It was a job he was lucky to survive. But he did, and by the time he got back to earth, he’d earned enough to launch his own fledgling business selling portable, inflatable holo-chambers.
His business thrived till this year when SuperSuits hit the market. Who wanted to holo-fly like a rocket when a SuperSuit let them do so for real?
The crotchety old bastard entered his store. “Any business while I was out?” he said to his only remaining salesperson, Emily.
“No. Seems everybody’s buying SuperSuits this year.”
“Anyway, it’s so quiet here and Christmas Eve … Tim and I are going through a difficult time. Could I—“
“Take off early again this year? Fine, but without pay.”
“Thank you, sir. Merry Christmas.”
The crotchety old bastard spent the rest of the day alone in his shop counting his credits.
A jingling sound awakened the crotchety old bastard. “How’d you get in my house?” he said to a round fellow in a red suit and long, white beard. “I suppose you used a SuperSuit to come down my chimney? Get out.”
The round fellow shook his head. “I’m disappointed in you. You have much to give, especially your incredible spirit of survival. Share it.”
The crotchety old bastard lunged at the intruder. “Let’s see you without this SuperSuit.” He yanked at the fellow’s beard.
“Ho, ho, ho,” the round fellow said and began to fade from view. “You’re a survivor. Share that spirit,” he said and vanished.
The crotchety old bastard sat up in bed. Crazy dream, he thought. Too anxious to sleep, he went into his holo chamber. “Computer, I want to fly in the Alps.” The lights flickered, and he found himself in the home of Emily and Tim. Emily, who looked younger, laughed and held a mistletoe over Tim.
“Computer, I said I want to fly in the mountains.” Again the lights flickered and again he was in Emily’s home. Emily looked more like her current age and wore the same red and green top she had on at the shop today. But Tim was thin and sickly looking.
“Honey,” Emily said, “don’t give up. Doctor Marley says the new treatment is promising.”
“I’m tired of fighting it, Emily.”
Even the crotchety old bastard felt a tug at his heart. “Computer, get me out of here. Alps.”
Again he was in Emily’s home. She’d aged and sat, alone, at a table with two place-settings. She raised her glass toward the empty chair.
The crotchety old bastard shuddered and went back to bed. He needed to get up early in the morning. The round fellow had told him to share his spirit of survival. He hoped it wasn’t too late.